(Editor’s note: This is the third column in a three-part series about Hieu Q. Nguyen, 23, a native of Vietnam who immigrated to the United States with his family when he was 14. He is now an undergraduate student in journalism at the University of Iowa and a member of the Newman Catholic Student Center.)
By Hieu Nguyen
For The Catholic Messenger
After graduating from West High School in Davenport, I went to Scott Community College in Bettendorf for two years. I joined Phi Theta Kappa, an international honor society. Through Phi Theta Kappa, I learned more about service and leadership and discovered that I could be more than just a college student.
I transferred to the University of Iowa in the fall of 2015 to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism. In high school, I discovered my future college major when I was working for the Beak ’n’ Eye, the school’s newspaper. Since then, I’ve taken journalism classes, French courses and various classes for a minor in international studies.
My career goals are to become a multimedia journalist and a public relations specialist. I also have an interest in serving in the military. Ultimately, I want to serve God, the people, and the community by using my skills, the gifts God has given me.
In the summer of 2015, I returned to Saigon before my first semester at the University of Iowa. I spent three weeks there hanging out with friends, visiting old places and seeing relatives. Saigon has changed a lot since I left. It felt good to be back, but I felt out of place because of the different lifestyle. I also rode my old bike. Once again, I said goodbye to relatives and friends as I returned to Iowa.
I’ve participated in many activities at the Newman Center since the fall of 2015. Particularly, I joined the communications team and helped with taking photos and making a photo slide show. I went on an alternative mission trip in New Orleans. Even more, I led a small Christian community for two semesters. I also serve at Mass as eucharistic minister and lector.
I decided to get involved in the Newman Center to learn about faith, to serve and to meet new people. Specifically, I help at the blood drive and Sunday night dinners. The Newman Center has had a tremendous impact on my spiritual life. I made new friends and participated in activities such as Tuesday Night Prayer, retreats, small Christian community and Thursday night Mass. It offers opportunities to grow in faith, meet people, build friendships and volunteer.
My Catholic faith is very important. Faith has changed my life. Before learning more about faith, there was no hope and purpose in my life. I have discovered my purpose in life, as well as hope and meaning through participating in the Mass and in service to others. In addition, I realize that God has an undying love and countless blessings for all of us. Faith helps me understand the call to serve God and others.
When I started going to college people generally asked me, “Where are you from?” I often reply, “I’m from Davenport, Iowa.” I would explain to those who asked further that I was born in Saigon, Vietnam, and lived there for 14 years.
I have hopes for Vietnam. Hopefully, communism would fall so that people would have a better life with democracy, human rights and freedom. That remaining South Vietnamese veterans in Vietnam would have better lives. More importantly, children would learn the truth about the war. I hope that one day my friends would be able to enjoy the freedom that I have.
After moving to Iowa, I had mixed feelings of loneliness and excitement. Now, the feeling of belonging and happiness give me hope for the future. I’ve changed a lot since I came to America and I’ve learned how to live with people of different cultures. It’s been quite a journey for me, immigrating to a new country.